I've just finished reading this book. It's 3:30 in the morning, and my Nexus 7 is on its last leg because I was too enthralled to plug it up. When I bookmarked the last page I'd read in GRRM's 4th book, I told myself that I'd read a few pages of this to catch up and call it a night. I didn't expect to fall so quickly.
In a matter of a few pages, the story started going many interesting places with a battle-weary Carmel breaking up with the gang (and by extension Thomas) because she no longer thinks she can handle the supernatural part of her life and the normal part of her life clashing any longer. We witness Thomas come into his own as a black witch and become much more confident with his powers, and, in his search to free Anna from hell, Can learns a few more secrets about his father and his blade, how it can aid him in saving Anna, and the price you sometimes have to pay for those you love.
Up until the end ending, I was pretty sure that I was going to give this 3 or even 3.5 stars, but I truly loved the ending. At first, I was worried that Blake would use an old overused formula to solve the Anna dilemma where everyone leaves the story happy and leading normal lives, and maybe other readers will think she still fell victim to cliché. However, the scene was written with such simple beauty, very bittersweet, but I'm glad that Cas got to make his peace and realize that it is indeed true that sometimes you have to let go of the things you love the most. And Anna truly did find peace and happiness in the end, and they did get to be together in a very unconventional sense that I liked. But I did feel like how she solved the problem with the blade was predictable.
As with the first book, there was an eerie vibe to the story, especially when reading the parts where Anna is has her "accidents" which Cas experiences through waking nightmares. Those moments were melancholy, but served to make Cas' resolved to get her out. I think the first book still did a better job of catching that spooky feel since we spend so much more time with Cas trying to deal with Anna and various other ghosts as Cas geared up to face the thing that killed his father.
I was hoping we'd find out more about where this hatred of Anna started with Anna's mother. In fact, I didn't feel that this closed some of the questions that I still had since the first book. I didn't mention that in review of the first book because I just knew that loose ends would be addressed. SPOILER: It wasn't. I thought the transition of Carmel leaving the group and rejoining the group was done way too fast. Overall, I felt there just wasn't as much focus on character in the first book because Blake had so much going on in this story, especially since another two importantish--Gideon and Jestine--were introduced.
While we did learn a little about the two, it was very shallow making it hard for me to connect or care about them. Jestine more than Gideon since Gideon did appear in the first book. But I did like Thomas becoming more confident in his powers while continuing to be the same old goofy Thomas.
I think I still enjoyed the first book more than this one, but it's a worthy sequel.